One of the most enduring legacies of the 21st century has been the advent of Social Media. It has fundamentally altered the way the news is perceived in recent times. The social media has empowered people who no longer “Default to Truth”, a concept propounded by psychologist Tim Levine and explained by Malcolm Gladwell in his recent book-‘Talking to Strangers’, where he argues that we have a hard time recognising a liar because we are social animals prone to placing implicit trust on others.
However, the arrival of social media has unshackled our limitations and provided us with the means to debunk lies and question conventional wisdom peddled by the propagandist charlatans of our times. Recently, the power and reach of social media wielded were apparent when Internet users promptly called out Loksatta editor Girish Kuber for a highly plagiarised article.
Hello @andrew_lilico— Vigilant Indian (@Padmaka38226254) May 15, 2020
This Indian journalist @girishkuber translated your block claiming to be written by him
Did he took prior permission ?
If not then this is clear case of Plagiarism https://t.co/4FjqdaPlg5
Several social media users pointed out how Mr Kuber blatantly lifted the entire article from a blog run by one Andrew Lilico, a PhD expert in economic modelling and policy impact simulations, and reproduced it in the Marathi language for vernacular consumption, without providing any credits to the source from where he shamelessly copied the article.
The blog titled as “A sense of proportion“, shares a perspective on how the approach embraced by the UK government in bringing down the mortality rate of the country in 2019 by instituting strict and exacting restrictions involved an apathetic indifference towards the relative importance of human happiness and flourishing that is being sacrificed in the country’s battle against the coronavirus.
The article draws a sharp distinction on how the mortality rate in 1996 in the United Kingdom was 11 and in 2019 was 9.4. Author Lilico contends that despite the fatality rate being high in the period between 1996 to 2019, if the current measures of banning of convivial gatherings, pubs, restaurants had been instituted by the government then to bring the number of deaths down by 100,000 per year, some people would have branded such measures as authoritarian while others would have tendered financial losses to argue their case against imposing crippling bans.
The author claims that people have lost “a sense of proportion” about the human happiness and joy as they are now willing to allow the government to enforce stifling bans and restrictions to reduce the mortality rate which would touch the levels of 1996 but they would not have necessarily reacted in the same meek manner back in 1996 when there were 100,000 mortalities as compared to the 2019 levels.
This pithy observation about how human thinking is shaped by a pandemic was brazenly duplicated by Loksatta editor in his Op-ed titled ‘Covidscope‘, thinking his treachery of replicating a blogpost in the Marathi language will not be called out. Mr Kuber provided no provenance of the article in his Op-ed, misleading readers to believe that it was his wisdom and insight and not that of a foreign PhD expert.
While the article was published in the vernacular language-Marathi, the striking resemblance to the thoughts shared by Andrew Lilico is not lost. As many Social Media users highlighted, Mr Kuber had simply translated the English blog post and reproduced it in Marathi. The article makes the same observations as penned by Andrew Lilico in his blog and draws the same dichotomy between the UK government’s reticence in dealing with the higher mortality rate in 1996 as compared to its overzealousness in limiting the deaths due to coronavirus in 2020, albeit, with a lost “sense of proportion” for human happiness, which is again copied almost verbatim by the Loksatta editor without providing due credit to Lilico.
After several social media users pointed out the uncanny similarity between the Loksatta editorial and PhD expert’s blog post, Lilico acknowledged the plagiarism committed by Mr Kuber and posted a witty tweet.
OK. Fair play. Today I’ve learned an amusing saying: “एक न्हावी दुसरया न्हाव्याच्या दाढीचे पैसे घेत नाही म्हणतात” – “It is said that one barber does not charge for the beard of another barber”. https://t.co/SzEXBS1vcY— Andrew Lilico (@andrew_lilico) May 15, 2020
Lilico quipped that it was a fair play as he also learned an amusing saying in Marathi after plagiarism row.
“OK. Fair play. Today I’ve learned an amusing saying: “एक न्हावी दुसरया न्हाव्याच्या दाढीचे पैसे घेत नाही म्हणतात” – “It is said that one barber does not charge for the beard of another barber,” Lilico tweeted while quoting a tweet that accused Loksatta editor Girish Kuber of blatantly copying Lilico’s blog post.
Andrew also confirmed that the Loksatta editor didn’t seek his permission before reproducing his article, and informed that he came to know about it only after people tweeted about it.